You may know author Randy Frazee as the architect of The Story, a collection of stories, poems, and teachings from the Bible that reads like a novel. Subsequently, this literary project went on to become a theatrical celebration of faith, one that featured co-author Max Lucado, and popular musicians Steven Curtis Chapman, Jeremy Camp, Natalie Grant and others.
What you may not know about Frazee is that he battled clinical depression for months following the success of The Story Tour. But from these ashes, he experienced firsthand the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.
These experiences formed the foundation of Frazee’s latest book, His Mighty Strength, a work designed to equip readers with the freedom to shed the things that hold us back and walk in the same power that Jesus experienced from His resurrection.
I recently spoke to Frazee about the feeling of powerlessness, his victory over clinical depression, and how we can tap into the victorious life that God promises when we are floundering.
The idea of feeling powerless in our lives was brought to the forefront in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. With that comes anxiety and depression. Do you feel like we have a real mental health problem on our hands going forward into 2021?
Well, it’s beyond my feeling it, the facts are there. You’ve probably read them as well. We had a growing mental health crisis already before the pandemic. Part of it is we’re finally starting to address it as mental illness or mental struggles versus some sort of taboo topic. So surprisingly, there’s been a lot of people in humanity who struggled for a very long time, but with the pandemic it has skyrocketed. Anxiety and depression as well as loneliness is at an all-time high, which spurs on more anxiety and depression, has led to an unprecedented levels of suicide, not only in our nation but around the world. So, we have another pandemic of sorts going on and that is the pandemic of mental health problems.
What was the inspiration or the catalyst for writing His Mighty Strength?
The catalyst for writing it had nothing to do with mental illness as a focal point. That has become a major focal point of this book, but it was not my original intent. I was working on a follow-up project to The Story and it’s called Believe. It’s the 30 biggest ideas in the Bible. It’s a Bible engagement experience like The Story. Steven Curtis Chapman wrote all the music for it. So, it’s a worship album as well. And as I was studying the 30 biggest ideas in the Bible, 10 of which are beliefs, I was diving back into my old theology books from seminary and came upon an ancient sort of view on the nature of Jesus that had been lost from the Fourth Century on.
It’s called Kenotic Christology. Basically, it is a point of view that theologian Roger Olson from Baylor University says falls well within the realm of Orthodox Christianity boundaries. It tries to reconcile the concept of Jesus as fully God taking on flesh, being fully God and fully man. We know that something has to give because God is all present and humans are not. God is all knowing, and humans are not. God is all powerful and humans are not. So, when those two things collide and Jesus remains one hundred percent God and one hundred percent man, something has to happen functionally as it relates to those three topics. When you read Ephesians 1, it says the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the same as His mighty strength, which is the title of the book, you ask yourself the question, one, how do I tap into this power? And two, why didn’t Jesus raise himself from the dead, if he’s fully God? That takes you back to Philippians 2, where it says that He left the heavens. And even though being in the very nature of God did not consider that it’s something to be taken to His advantage, meaning that He (the word is kenosis) emptied himself. He emptied himself and became a man. Well, Kenotic Christology basically takes the point of view that what Jesus did is while He maintained His position as fully God, meaning that it did not change His nature whatsoever, functionally, He left behind the three “omnis” — omnipresent, omnipotence and omniscient. He is fully Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, but He voluntarily left those things behind. When you go and read into the Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus, things start making tremendous sense. And I have to tell you, I was mesmerized by this view, not only because it was intriguing, fresh orthodoxy, but also because it showed me the tremendous vulnerability and humility of Jesus, and the position He placed himself in, to not only identify with us, to empathize with us, but to actually show us the way to access power. And so, this is a long answer to a very intriguing question for me. It was coming out of my love for the Bible and a theological intrigue with this concept of Kenotic Christology.
I understand that you struggled with clinical depression for several months. What can you tell me about that? What pulled you out of this situation?
This is what I think is so fascinating about the book. I am writing a book, and this is before COVID-19. This is back in 2017. I am writing a book on how to walk daily in the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. And I found myself unable to raise myself from the couch on many days. The irony was not lost on me. I just felt like such a hypocrite. I felt like, maybe the concept isn’t really valid. Maybe Paul, when he said the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, certainly would give me enough power to raise myself from the couch. Maybe I misunderstood him. Maybe the Bible is not reliable. Maybe I don’t have the faith. Whatever it was, I basically ran into a bout of depression in the midst of writing this book.
I actually completely wrote it and my publisher did not like it. (He said) it was too theological and that I needed to rewrite it. I wrote it in my depression and pain. I almost just stopped writing (for good). Basically what happened in 2017 was I ran up against a bout of betrayal that I talk about in the book. I don’t really talk about the people who did it, but basically it was for me. It caught me off guard. And as a pastor, I have been swung at many, many times. Many times I’ve been misunderstood. Many times I’ve been blamed for things. It’s just a part of the job, but this was something super personal a reader of the book.
I use this analogy of someone who’s been married to somebody for a long time, only for them to betray you. And boy, I empathetically get why sometimes a person who had been betrayed by a spouse goes into a clinical depression. I thought I was going to just bounce back from it. But what I discovered is that I went down into the basement of my brain where I am in survival mode, a fight, flight, or freeze situation. And I stayed down there too long and I couldn’t get back up. The door was shut, and I could not get it opened again. That was happening in the middle of me writing this book. Even though it was not overnight, the principles of the book, which are not new to me, they’ve been laying in the ancient scriptures all along. We just haven’t seen them because we haven’t been willing to let Jesus be the Jesus He was when he walked this earth. I was able to apply these principles and eventually, it took eight months, but I fully recovered from that situation.
So, how can we tap into the victorious life that God promises when we are floundering with our emotions?
That’s a great question, Chris. The book really has three sections to it and even though I try to avoid the words, they really are sort of sequential steps that we see patterns in the life of Jesus. The first one is Jesus emptied himself. Kenosis Jesus emptied himself. Jesus emptied himself of control. So, the first step for us is we need to do the same thing. We need to empty ourselves, but not of control. We need to empty ourselves of the illusion of control. Many people are going to struggle with powerlessness or limited power because they maintain that they are actually in control of their life. Now, the reality is we are in control of certain things, kind of like the serenity prayer, the things we can control, we should control, and the things we can’t control.
Give them over to God and have the wisdom to know the difference. There are things that we can control like our diet, our ability to exercise, and brush our teeth. But the big things we cannot control, like those external factors in life, like a global pandemic coming along and not being able to do anything about it is the first step that Jesus made. And if we want to tap into the power, we’ve got to give up the illusion that we’re in control.
Step number two is something that Jesus did over and over again. But unless you see the position He put himself in, you won’t recognize it, but the pattern is overtly strong. That is, Jesus aligned His life to the will of the Father. So, He emptied himself and then he aligned.
If you read through the Gospel of John and know that every time Jesus said, “I will be nothing apart from the will of the Father. I am seeking the will of the Father. I won’t even speak apart from the will of the Father, giving me words you need over and over again.” And why is that? It’s because He left behind His full knowledge. Luke 2:52 says that He was growing in wisdom and stature. If Jesus is fully God, He cannot grow in wisdom. God cannot grow in wisdom. So, either the Scriptures are not a good source of truth, Jesus is not God, or something different is going on here. Kenotic Christology basically says, yeah, something is different going on here. While Jesus maintained His position as being fully God, He had to learn to grow in wisdom.
One of the reasons why a lot of Christians are disappointed in the outcome of their Christian life is a sense of powerlessness, basically like they had prior to coming to (Jesus) Christ. This is because they’re seeking for the (Holy) Spirit to unleash its power on our will. And it just won’t happen. The beautiful thing is, the will of God enables us to live the best life possible. So, we have to be convinced that the Father is a good Father and that His will is actually taking us in a direction better than anything we could ever devise ourselves. But you have to know God and trust Him to do that. The third and final step is simply to empower, which basically is once your life is aligned to the will of the Father all you have to do is yield to the presence of the Holy Spirit within you and He will empower you to achieve the will of the Father. Sometimes that’s overcoming clinical depression. Sometimes it is barreling through a mountain. Ultimately for believers, it is power. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead will raise you from the dead on that last day.
What did God teach you through writing of this book? I’m sure He revealed some things to you that you hadn’t even really considered before.
First of all, I think God taught me that He is very personal and that while I don’t believe that He caused the betrayal that I experienced, He used the betrayal to accomplish the writing of this book. (This is) a book that I think is going to help a lot more people because it includes my story, my empathy for the sense of a connection to their powerlessness. In the story of Joseph, when his brothers betrayed him and he ultimately forgave them 22 years later, he said, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good.” And I think what the betrayers did to me, they meant for evil, but God was using it for good. The timing of it is impeccable. You know, God is never early, He’s never late, but He’s always on time.
He was just in time, right in the middle of this book. He reminded me how personal that He is. Number two, He reminded me that these ancient Scriptures and the promises in them are in fact alive and true today.
Sometimes He doesn’t remove it (our affliction). He gives us the strength to see it through. So, I don’t want people to sense that you’re going to have the power in your will to remove things that are not meant to be removed. God will never leave you alone in your pain. And He will always give you the strength to see it through. Like in the case of the Apostle Paul, the thorn in his flesh was not removed for an upper purpose. That may be the case of God’s will for another person’s life. But He is there, and that power is available to overcome it.